Daniel Craig, the darkest, grittiest, fittest James Bond we’ve ever known, says goodbye in style

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Just before Daniel Craig took up the mantle as one of film (and literature’s) most iconic figures, they were many murmurs around his placement as her Majesty’s finest spy. Aside from the fact that 007 was meant to be less brawn and force and more charm and elegance, much of the public and those within Hollywood themselves began to grow anxious as to whether Craig actually understood the gravitas of the role. The irony was that, in true fashion to what his character embodied, Craig seemed to carry a cavalier outlook to life, when he originally turned down the role by simply declaring: “Sorry, I can’t be bothered.”

He had his reasons. Producers had approached him to read for the role but they didn’t have a script yet. So, the process was drawn out for an extended period of time. They eventually gave birth to some words for Casino Royale which they convinced him to take a look at. And the rest is history.  

Well not quite. Even whilst filming his first Bond film in the Bahamas, the press were tearing him to shreds. Everyone was willing him to fail. A journalist once heard a bellhop in a hotel say: “He’s blond, you know? They’ll dye his hair. Can’t have him running around like that, now, can they?” The fact that Daniel Craig was only one of two James Bond actors that was actually born in England (Roger Moore is the other) meant nothing to the locals.

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Yet Craig endured. Which is what Bond is about and what his tenure in the role was about as well. Yes, 007 was built on tradition and off the back of eras where a British secret service agent was meant to be less in your face and not so grimly anguished. But franchises have to adapt to encapsulate further generations and audiences and we’ve been fortunate enough to have witness not only the invigorating evolution of this character but one of the greatest portrayals in its history as well.  

It is a portrayal that has had sound streaks of darkness to it- something no other James Bond has brought to the role. He’s an orphan; he’s constantly shot at; stabbed; suffocated; has his wife killed. How is the man’s soul not to be drenched in gritty anger?  It doesn’t help that his genitals were smashed upon by a giant rope by the first major villain he encounters.

Overall, we can fondly look back on this period within the Bond dynasty. Casino Royale kick-started it all and showed us that we were in for a heck of a ride. Introducing Craig to the role; setting the scene for his complex struggle after losing his wife Vesper Lynd and doing away with dated clichés like wisecrack female names and corny gadgets. This was one of the finest Bond movies of all time.

Quantum of Solace is probably the less favourite of all of Craig’s movies, but it still serves an important role in beginning to work in the crime organisation, SPECTRE, an integral obstacle to our protagonist’s journey. A study also revealed that this was the most violent Bond movie ever, so even though the plot lacks depth, some actions scenes are immense. It also pays testament to Craig who does his own James Bond stunts which has resulted in him separating his shoulder; spraining his knee; hurting his ankle; as well as losing a tooth and the tip of a finger. Action enough for you?

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The franchise quickly recovered in Skyfall which was seismic to say the least. With a key representation of diversity- Moneypenny being black and Q being gay, Bond moved with the times and began to pour cold water on the old-fashioned and prejudicial manners that have been associated with the previous films. That the characters slot in so slickly by genuinely adding to the narrative rather than playing out like quota decisions, makes this piece ever so poignant. Javier Bardem’s villain, Raoul Silva, is eerily brilliant and when he successfully exacts his revenge on Judy Dench’s character, M, it adds to 007’s tortured and checkered history with death.  

Spectre is a culmination of all of Craig’s previous Bond movies, resulting in the return of one of the most iconic villains ever- Ernst Blofeld. Christopher Waltz does not disappoint in the role and Blofeld and Bond’s relationship reaches new and warped heights with Hannes Oberhauser serving both as a father figure to a young Bond and a biological dad to Blofeld. That so much of Bond’s pain in recent chapters was down to this nefarious adversary, would have made this a worthy finale to Craig’s time at the helm.

But it was not to end there and we were lucky enough to have one more instalment in No Time To Die. Without giving away too much for those who have not seen it, this really is a fitting ending- that ties up most loose ends and signs off with a powerful Au Revoir. Rami Malik is exceptional which is expected of one of the finest young actors of his time and Lashana Lynch builds on the importance of having more realistic women in the Bond universe  

And Craig? He is 51, running around like it still matters to him as much as it did in Bermuda; showing the world that it’s not how you started and it’s not even how you end. But it’s what you make people feel when they see you. For Craig is to Bond, like Cumberbatch is to Holmes, like Bale is to Batman. Successfully bring a 20th century character into the 21st century.

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Tying something up in Hollywood is never an easy task. Breaking Bad and the Dark Knight trilogy nailed it. Dexter and The Godfather couldn’t. But this has been a wonderfully balanced and eloquently bursting symphony that has left us wanting more. Whoever steps into the shoes of James Bond next will have his (or her) own weight to carry. There have been more men on the moon than there have been actors to play the role. Who’s going to be special? Who’s going to be brave? Brave like the man who went from being Craig the plague to fond of Bond. These are both exciting and nervy times- anything can happen.

Double, oh, yes please.


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